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Zimbabwe: cholera patients treated in epicentre of Kuwadzana – Africanews English

As Zimbabwe battles a deadly cholera outbreak in its capital Harare, patients are being treated in Kuwadzana, the epicentre of the crisis.

On Friday, authorities declared a state of emergency in Harare, a city of 1.5 million people where 13 deaths have been reported so far. Across the country, there have been 150 deaths and more than 7,000 suspected cholera cases since the outbreak began in February. 

Half of the deaths in the capital have occurred in the densely-populated area of Kuwadzana, according to Zimbabwe’s health minister Dr Douglas Mombeshora. 

Frequent outbreaks

Cholera outbreaks are a frequent occurrence in the country’s cities where supplies of clean water and sanitation facilities are often limited due and infrastructure has collapsed due to years of neglect. 

In 2008, a cholera outbreak claimed at least 4,000 lives, with at least 100,000 cases. 

More recently, in 2018, outbreaks of cholera and typhoid led the government to ramp up its vaccination efforts.

Contaminated drinking water

The disease is caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae which is generally transmitted through contaminated food and water.

It can be treated with an oral rehydration solution, to replace the fluids and salts lost to diarrhoea and vomiting.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was re-elected in August for a second term, has promised to revitalise the country’s economy and infrastructure. In June, he pledged a nationwide borehole-drilling programme.

“We are building roads and dams and recently we started installing solar boreholes in every village across the country,” Mnangagwa said. 

In highly-populated areas liked Kuwadzana, drinking water is often contaminated.

“People have dug wells close to pit latrines, especially in mushrooming settlements and other suburbs which do not have running water. This means their drinking water is contaminated,” Harare’s mayor Ian Makone said.

According to Makone, local authorities, the health ministry and aid groups have now joined forces to double the supply of water in areas affected by the current outbreak.

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Students from Africa have expectations and doubts about COP28 – University World News


During preparatory events ahead of COP28, youth perspectives have been deliberately sought and are expected to be amplified by the 2023 presidency which intends to “centre youth perspectives in international climate policy-making, setting a model for future COPs”, according to YOUNGO, the official children and youth constituency of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

University World News spoke to students who are attending the 2023 United Nations climate change conference, COP28, which is being held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), from 30 November to 12 December.

Christabel Mhiribidi, who has just graduated from Zimbabwe’s Midlands State University, is one of them. She studied geography and environmental studies and will pursue a climate-related masters degree in future. She recalls meeting the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres last year when COP27 took place in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

Christabel Mhiribidi, Image provided

“l have always read about him and his tireless efforts to create a conducive environment for all. So, getting to see him in person was like a dream come true,” Mhiribidi told University World News.

At COP28 Mhiribidi said she would be representing the voices of children and young people to make sure their perspectives were taken into consideration during decision-making processes.

She was chosen by the UAE-sponsored International Youth Climate Delegate Program that selected 100 young people from an applicant pool of 11,000 from the Least Developed Countries, Small Island Developing States, indigenous peoples and other minority groups to follow climate negotiations and discussions about carbon credits and just transition processes at the conference.

“It is important for university students to attend climate conferences as they will develop an appreciation of global climate issues which informs the action taken thereafter. They will interact with like-minded peers, share climate stories, challenges and collectively offer solutions,” she said.

Nyasha Milanzi, Image provided

Focusing on just energy transition

Another Zimbabwean student, Nyasha Milanzi, who is pursuing a masters degree in sustainable communities at Michigan Technological University in the United States, told University World News she is attending COP28 as a delegate of her university to complete a research paper as well as learn about other climate topics such as environmental justice for indigenous peoples, carbon credits and adaptation.

She will co-moderate a session on 2 December with Emma Loizeaux from the University of Colorado about ‘Fossil Fuel Divestment at University’.

Milanzi said her interdisciplinary research focuses on equitable and just energy transitions in under-served communities in Sub-Saharan Africa and in rural communities.

Milanzi said she will be attending as an observer and will be able to participate in sessions or negotiations with themes related to indigenous communities, carbon financing and adaptation.

She said that, during her first year in Michigan as a graduate student, she got the opportunity to enrol in a climate and energy policy class where students could potentially attend COP28.

She said that, through this course, she learned about many of the complex global climate science, politics, governance, and law issues, which she believes are essential for understanding the gravity of the problem at hand as well as the challenges encountered when trying to solve a global challenge without a ‘world government’.

Milanzi said her initial area of interest in climate advocacy was to work with like-minded individuals and organisations to eradicate energy poverty in Africa, starting in her country, Zimbabwe.

“However, during my undergraduate studies at Ashesi University (Ghana), I learned about the impact of the energy sector on our environment and how that sector, alone, is responsible for close to a third of the greenhouse gases emitted into our atmosphere.

“After that, my approach to the topic of electrification pivoted. I realised that we needed to build more grid systems that emit less greenhouse gases than fossils.

“Most African countries, including Zimbabwe, increasingly need more energy to power their economies. Unfortunately, burning fossil fuels is harmful for our planet and can be dangerous to the communities that live in proximity to these power plants.

“In 2019, air pollutants killed about 1.9 million people in Africa, according to the World Health Organization,” she said.

Milanzi said she is now conducting research and investigating equitable and just pathways for implementing energy transitions to renewable energy sources as they are less detrimental to the environment and they are better for human health.

She said the global effort outlined in the Paris Agreement, aimed at limiting global warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2030, faces a critical challenge and the current progress is far from where the world needs to be.

What to expect from COP28

But what are her expectations when it comes to COP28?

Milanzi said a key priority for her is the successful implementation of the Loss and Damage Fund at COP28. The fund, established at COP27, aims to provide financial assistance to nations most vulnerable and impacted by the effects of climate change.

She said Africa, in particular, requires substantial financial support to meet the costs associated with adaptation efforts.

Milanzi said that, furthermore, it is critical to address the systemic underrepresentation of indigenous communities and other vulnerable groups in negotiations.

“A poignant example is a community in Kenya that, just a few months ago, was forcibly evicted from their ancestral lands to make way for carbon market forests.

“This situation is regrettable, particularly considering that these communities were not included when the provisions and terms of operation for carbon markets were established in the COPs. Now, they find themselves uprooted from their homes and livelihoods to facilitate their government’s engagement in carbon forest trading.

“The injustice is twofold: not only were they excluded from the initial decision-making processes, but they are also now bearing the brunt of the consequences,” she said.

“To rectify this, it is imperative that the platform instituted for indigenous peoples around the world receives substantial resources. Only through such proactive measures can we hope to correct the historical oversights and ensure that those most affected by climate change have a meaningful and inclusive role in shaping the solutions.”

The Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples’ Platform was set up in 2021.

Wandipa Mualefhe, Image provided

Learning the stories of the most vulnerable

In an interview with University World News, Wandipa Mualefhe, a student from Botswana, who is in the third-year of a PhD study in environmental and energy policy, also at Michigan Technological University, said COP28 will be her first major climate conference.

Mualefhe said that, as an undergraduate, she studied civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University.

She said the environmental aspect of the degree exposed her to climate change and the focus was more on how to adapt to it and how to mitigate the effects.

“Adaptation work is very important. For me, I think, the most important thing in the climate change conversation is finding the most vulnerable people and learning their stories; learning, not just about them, but from them, too,” she said.

Mualefhe said she comes from a privileged background in Botswana where her family is in the middle class, hence she has mostly been cushioned from the effects of climate change.

She has, however, noted that Botswana has a long-running history of droughts that are getting worse and, in recent years, floods have also been experienced.

“The project I’m pursuing for my dissertation is an ethnographic exploration of climate change in Botswana, where I’m from. I’m going to COP28 as a component of one of the classes I took this semester, an international climate policy class.

“I chose it mainly for this opportunity. My research interests are in climate change, climate justice, climate/environmental/energy policy, gendered power, public policy-making, and policy analysis,” she said.

However, with access to the conference, she plans to attend events and discussions relating to adaptation, just transition, capacity-building, gender, and other discussions focusing on Africa and the Global South in general.

But does she think COP28 will achieve much?

“I have felt some disappointment about the UN Climate Change Convention in general and climate conferences, of which COP is the biggest one. I just don’t think enough is happening, considering what is known. I think there is an awful focus on politics at these conferences that takes away some of the work that needs to be done,” said Mualefhe.

Tafadswa Kurotwi, Image provided

Book targets young people

Tafadswa Kurotwi, in her fourth year at the Catholic University of Zimbabwe, attended COP27 and told University World News she is also making her way to COP28.

She said there is a gap in climate education which she has tried to bridge by writing a book targeting young people.

She said the climate change book which she wrote with fellow youths Elizabeth Gulugulu and Priyanka Naik will be launched during COP28. She could not say more about the book until its launch.

“My attendance is to amplify my voice as well as to represent young people from my country and from the Global South, who are being impacted by the climate crisis,” she said.

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Zimbabwe’s Goal to End AIDS Is So Close. Why Are Health Experts … – Global Press Journal

HARARE, ZIMBABWE — Precious rarely takes her medication in public. If she must, she keeps the pills in an unmarked case and discreetly opens it inside her handbag before taking the medication. Even at home in Mabvuku, a suburb east of Harare, Precious makes sure the pills remain in her secret place — the unmarked case. The 31-year-old has her reasons.

In 2004, Precious, who asked to use her middle name for fear of stigma, was diagnosed with HIV. She was put on antiretroviral therapy. Soon after, she moved in with her cousin and divulged her status.

“She then broke the news to her friends. News spread that I was on antiretroviral treatment,” Precious says.

The mother of two was devastated. She felt betrayed. “I thought that she was going to keep the issue a secret when I confided in her,” she says.

Enraged, Precious went home and poured the case of pills into the toilet. For 12 years, she stopped taking medication and resolved to keep her status a secret. Even now, Precious — who is a sex worker — has not shared her HIV status with the men she has been intimate with. (Sex work is no longer a crime in Zimbabwe.)

Precious is one of many Zimbabweans living with HIV in a country that was among the worst affected by the epidemic. The first national estimate, produced in 2003, showed that 24.6% of the country’s adult population (ages 15 to 49) was infected.

But in the last few years, Zimbabwe has managed to reduce its HIV prevalence. By 2022, that HIV prevalence figure dropped to 11%, according to data from the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, known as UNAIDS.

Zimbabwe is also one of the few countries in the world that, according to a July report by UNAIDS, has achieved the 95-95-95 targets at national level. This means that 95% of people living with HIV are aware of their status, 95% of them are on medication, and 95% of those on medication have a suppressed viral load.

Despite these significant strides, there is little cause for celebration in the area of stigma and discrimination, which are on the rise. In a 2022 Stigma Index survey, a tool that measures stigma and discrimination experienced by people living with HIV/AIDS, 69.7% of people living with HIV reported experiencing stigma or discrimination, up from 65.5% in 2014, according to the nonprofit Zimbabwe National Network of People Living with HIV, known as ZNNP+. And according to a UNAIDS update this year, about 30% of men and women aged 15 to 49 in Zimbabwe held discriminatory attitudes toward people living with HIV.

Experts caution that the battle against stigma (negative attitudes and beliefs) and discrimination (actions based on those beliefs) remains vital in Zimbabwe.

Bernard Madzima, CEO at National AIDS Council, worries that the rise in stigma and discrimination could affect Zimbabwe’s chances of attaining the UNAIDS goal to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2030, as well as increase the burden on health services.

“If people are afraid of being stigmatized, they will not present themselves for HIV testing and or will not access treatment services. This means that these people will not have their viral load suppressed and remain capable of infecting anyone that they engage in sex with,” Madzima says.

When they skip medicine, they end up with full-blown AIDS, agrees Tonderai Mwareka, stigma index coordinator at ZNNP+. They are also more vulnerable to opportunistic infections, infections that occur more frequently and are more severe in people with weakened immune systems.

Sex workers, transgender people and people in prison are among those most affected, says Mwareka, as they face double stigma based on both their HIV status and their occupation, sexual orientation or incarceration.

“I make sure that I take my medication in the morning to ensure that even if I bring a client home, they would not know about my status.”

In Precious’ case, when her cousin noticed she was no longer taking medication, she lied. She told her cousin that she had gone for another checkup and was told to stop taking medication because she was negative.

“I said maybe the machine had made an error,” Precious says.

She did not disclose her status to her clients either, as she worried how that might affect her sex work. Although she says she advocated for use of protection, some clients preferred not to.

For the 12 years Precious didn’t take any HIV medication, she struggled with headaches and dizziness and self-medicated with painkillers. In 2015, Precious relocated to another town and temporarily stopped sex work to start a new life with her newfound boyfriend. Because of the dizziness and headaches, a niece who stayed in the same town and was also on HIV treatment encouraged her to get tested.

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Gamuchirai Masiyiwa, GPJ Zimbabwe

Medical supplies at an Opportunistic Infections clinic in Mabvuku, a suburb east of Harare, Zimbabwe.

“I went to a local clinic, got tested and was put on treatment,” she says. She didn’t tell her niece that she’d found out about her status 12 years earlier.

Precious was put on medication again. Since she had not told her boyfriend about her status, she kept the medication at her niece’s place and went there each day for her dose. Whenever she ran out of medication, her niece would collect them on her behalf. But this arrangement only lasted for a year. She says she found out that her niece had been revealing her status, and so she quit taking her medication again, this time for six years.

It was when she moved to Harare to resume sex work in 2022 that things changed. Precious attended an outreach program by New Start Center, an organization that offers HIV testing and counseling services, where she learned about the importance of staying on medication and the risks of reinfection. She then resumed her medication.

Precious believes that her health could have worsened had she not resumed her treatment. But she still opts to keep her status a secret because of stigma. If people found out, the news would spread fast, she says, and she could lose clients.

“I make sure that I take my medication in the morning to ensure that even if I bring a client home, they would not know about my status,” she says. “Even if they sleep over, I always find tricks to take my treatment without them noticing.”

“We will make sure that everyone is reached and no one is left behind.” Ministry of Health and Child Care

The main cause of increased stigma and discrimination, Mwareka says, is lack of knowledge. He says that in the 1990s and early 2000s, there was a lot of investment in HIV messaging in both print and broadcast media.

“Almost every corner you passed had a poster about HIV/AIDS. But this is not the case anymore,” he says. “We relaxed a bit thinking that we had won the war, but the effects are now coming out.”

Owen Mugurungi, who directs the Ministry of Health and Child Care’s AIDS and tuberculosis unit, finds the rise in stigma and discrimination worrying. He blames misconceptions and false information around HIV spreading through social media. The government will ramp up its efforts to address the issue by ensuring proper information is available on all media channels, including social media platforms, he says.

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Gamuchirai Masiyiwa, GPJ Zimbabwe

Precious says she keeps her HIV status a secret to avoid further stigma and possibly lose her sex work clients.

“We want it to be at zero stigma, or less than 5%, and the key drivers for us to do it is through community education,” he adds.

Mwareka would like to see a return to robust HIV awareness campaigns. But while ZNNP+ leads awareness campaigns and HIV disease management programs, he says, they have limited resources and cannot cover the whole country.

ZNNP+ isn’t the only one affected by lack of resources. A fraught economy has caused the Zimbabwe government to invest less in HIV prevention as well, according to 2022 planning documents for the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief program in Zimbabwe, which notes that “declining economic conditions and fiscal space have exacerbated the difficulties in mobilizing domestic resources for health, a plight that has been exaggerated further by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“The times I went to fetch water at a well in my neighborhood, people would say if I fetched the water, I may cough and the virus will contaminate the water.”

Caroline, who asked to use her first name for fear of stigma, believes that although stigma and discrimination are still rife in Zimbabwe, things have slightly improved. The soft-spoken mother of one says that, when she was diagnosed with HIV in 2008, even her family members were too embarrassed to escort her to the hospital. As a result she missed some appointments. But she was lucky because, at the time, hospital staff would follow up if she missed checkups.

At home, the 39-year-old says she had a designated plate, cup and spoon, and no one wanted to eat from the same plate with her.

“I had a niece that I took care of since she was 3 months. She got used to being around me. We could eat from the same plate. But when I was sick, her mother beat her for eating from my plate, assuming she would get infected,” Caroline says. “It affected me deeply.”

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Gamuchirai Masiyiwa, GPJ Zimbabwe

“Almost every corner you passed had a poster about HIV/AIDS. But this is not the case anymore,” says Tonderai Mwareka, the stigma index coordinator at Zimbabwe National Network of People Living with HIV.

Even when she got better and didn’t appear visibly sick, the stigma did not stop. “The times I went to fetch water at a well in my neighborhood, people would say if I fetched the water, I may cough and the virus will contaminate the water,” she says.

At least people are now more accepting that a person with HIV can live longer, she says, while before, they viewed it as a death sentence.

Despite the prevalence of stigma, Caroline still holds out hope. “We will get to a point where we will be able to eliminate HIV — if people adhere to medication, and if maybe an injection that one may get once a year will help ensure that people adhere to treatment,” she says.

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Breaking news – Chronicle

More people are bitten by dogs in Manicaland than in any other province in Zimbabwe

Bongani Ndlovu, Online Writer

OVER 500 dog bite cases have been reported in Zimbabwe with most bites being from dogs of unknown status.

According to a weekly update by the Ministry of Health and Childcare, Manicaland Province with 83 bites had the highest followed by Mashonaland East with 75.

“Weekly Disease Surveillance Report for the Week Ending 19 November 2023. 546 dog bite cases and zero deaths were reported this week. Of these cases, 129 (23.6 percent) were bitten by vaccinated dogs, 125 (23 percent) by unvaccinated dogs and 292 (53.4 percent) by dogs of unknown status.

“The highest number of dog bite cases reported this week were from Manicaland Province (83) and Mashonaland East Province (75). The cumulative figures for dog bites are 10 872 cases and 3 deaths,” read the update.

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